By Funai

Interstellar Fantasy Pic 1

  • Less intense than M.A.C.H 3 but much more beautiful to look at, Japanese-maker Funai's Interstellar (also known as "Interstellar Fantasy") sports around 40 different laserdisc backgrounds depicting alien cityscapes and fantasy works, all keyed to a moody, Tangerine Dream-like synthesizer soundtrack that rates as one of the best music ever heard in a videogame. The laser images (designed by Japanese computer-graphics house Gakken) are a hard-edged, brilliantly colored and seamless Space Odyssey phantasmagoria of frozen planets spinning in the void, mountanous desert landscapes criss-crossed by what look like forcefield grids, odd clusters of skeletal buildings that may or may not be spaceports, etc. Superimposed on the Welcome-to-Jupiter backgrounds is a fairly standard alien-blasting video game, modeled after Galaga lines but with some novel additions, such as a feature that lets you fire at different angles instead of only straight ahead, and bombing sequences that follow the alien attack runs at regular intervals.

  • In Interstellar, you control a bottom-screen spaceship, the "Ferald Runner," and combat hordes of hostile for points in each of an assortment of colorful worlds. As in most laserdisc games, all of the backgrounds are disc-based; each planet is nicely represented by a combination of computer animation and special effects film footage. The spaceship and all of the game's adversaries are generated by the machine's computer hardware. The Ferald Runner is armed with both rapid-fire lasers (controlled by either a joystick-mounted trigger or a console-mounted "Fazer" button) and bombs (dropped by pressing the console-mounted "Burn" button). As the contest begins, you blast off from your home base and head for space (in an attractive computer-animated scene). You're then transported to your first alien world, where you fly over a hilly landscape that is blanketed with computer-generated contour lines. Immediately, squadrons of hostile spaceships appear in the distance on the horizon. The aliens will fly and swoop torwards your ship in the foreground and attempt to crash into it kamikaze-style before they fly off of the bottom of the screen. If an alien crashes into the Ferald Runner, you'll lose one of your three initial ships (bonus ships are earned at prset intervals). Points are scored, as you would imagine, by blasting the alien attackers with your lasers. Bonus points, meanwhile, may be earned by destroying four alien ships in rapid successions. This actually isn't very difficult (at least not in the first wave) -- you can often wipe out an entire formation before they clear the horizon if you're quick on the trigger.

    Interstellar Fantasy Pic 2

  • After clearing the skies of attackers, you'll be whisked to the second alien world featuring dark, crystalline landscape that is brightened by intermittent energy beams. here, the battle becomes more involving as you're pitted against two different types of attackers; swarms of Galaxian-like fighters that swoop and dive at you, and formations of bomb-dropping flying saucers the cruise overhead. Since the saucers fly out of your effective firing range, the best you can do is avoid the bombs that they drop. Later in the wave, clusters of land-mounted bases appear on the planet's surface and the overhead bombers take a well-earned rest. These bases can be destroyed by aligning them with a set of on-screen crosshairs and pressing the bomb-releasing "Burn" button (while, at the same time, continuing to do battle with the kamikaze fighters).

  • The third planet is an eerie world made up of hypnotically-swirling colorful nebulae. Here, the swarms of diving alien fighters and bomb-dropping saucers are joined on the screen by armies of land-based moving tanks. If you survive long enough, they are later joined by yet another enemy, the Delta UFO. The UFO is a large, triangular spaceship that swoops in from the distance to directly attack the Ferald Runner. This powerful craft can only be destroyed by landing eight direct hits in the notch located on the nose of the UFO.

  • The 3-D game graphics (aliens get bigger the closer they get to you) are well done and hi-res enough not to look out of place against the laser background, and the laser sequences change with next to no visible gaps. But while Interstellar is a fulsome trip for the eyes and ears -- and fun to play just for the reward of seeing new sequences and hearing more music -- the retread gameplay kept it from ever becoming an arcade hotshot's delight.

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